5 Ways Facebook Changed the Face of Gaming
Social gaming – the mere mention of it makes console gaming vets cringe and moan with disapproval. Has ten years of social gaming on Facebook entertained us with nothing more than the ‘unbelievable’ ability to share cows or crush candy?
Well, that isn’t entirely true per se. Let’s take a look at five things Facebook gaming did for us online gamers.
1. F2P is Here to Stay
To concept of being able to play games for free and paying for in-game content has been around for several years. However, Facebook game makers like Zynga transformed that practically into an artform. Their key titles thrived off two game mechanics – one, the idea of depleting energy which placed limits on play time and asked players to pay actual currency to get past those hindrances and; two, the existence of ‘virtual currencies’ in the form of gold coins or gems, which cleverly masked the fact that players were actually paying cash to acquire those.
Before we jump the gun and write off F2P as an ambiguously evil force, we must take into account how it has reached out to wider gaming audiences by cutting down or even completely eliminating ‘pay-upfront ownership rights’ required by traditional games on storage media.
Here’s what’s happened: when game developers started seeing games as more than just boxed products with a fixed price, they started to create and manage a service – this led to building and cementing very strong customer relationships. Sony and Microsoft are now experimenting with free-to-play game designs to be incorporated in their current-gen gaming titles, hoping to win over wider audiences.
2. The Appointment Gaming Concept
Conventional video games rely on immersion to suck the player in. It’s all about dedicated gaming spanning out over long sessions, which doesn’t work all that well as far as time-savvy or time-challenged players are concerned.
Facebook changed this – a form of game design gained popularity fast where players could dive in for a brief session, opt out for a while, and dive right back in where they left off. This structure let folks use games as a nice diversion while taking care of their day to day tasks.
An interesting after effect of this was how people started to look at these games as to-do lists – it started to look like work with meaningful objectives and providing much the same kind of satisfaction, in a fun way.
3. Repetitiveness is Key
As long as we can remember, games have had repetitive actions rewarding the player. An achievement leads to accessing new content which in turn leads to more achievement and on it goes.
Social games took this to a new level. The most successful titles monetize the most gamers and are generally open-ended, feeding the gamer with an ever-evolving set of tasks that are simply a means to an end, for the time being.
Take Farmville for instance – a series of co-dependent systems where the idea is to plant and harvest crops. You get in-game currency to buy new items, which is invested right back into the agricultural process.
You see, there are certain processes going on inside our brains when we play these games – for every repetitive action there’s a reward, which designers can utilize to essentially make the whole experience more satisfying. Understanding the depths of human behavior will eventually lead to a richer gaming experience.
4. Iteration: Enough Said!
In the days of old, when social gaming was a concept relatively unheard of, developers would release a game and move on to the next project. Digital distribution changed all that – developers started to release add-ons and DLC (downloadable content) for console and PC games.
Facebook developers only improved upon this. The general norm became: make a game, look at how people are playing it – for example what areas of the game they find most difficult, the items they prefer or what essentially converts them into paying customers – and tweak the game mechanics and structure accordingly.
At its peak, developer Zynga had a major data analysis team solely dedicated to studying how gamers are behaving within their game and then altering the flow of that game accordingly. This trend has lead to the entire gaming industry now relying on player iteration and analysis to fine-tune games after release. Does it surprise you that the head of Zynga’s analysis team, Ken Rudin, is now head of analytics at Facebook?
5. Female Gamers by the Numbers
When it comes to console and PC games, you’ll mostly come across male gamers as nearly all major publishers generally target the young male demographic.
Thanks to Facebook, titles like Farmville and Bejeweled have drawn a lot of female players, and more interestingly, the more mature female audiences. Oscar Clark who worked with Wooga at the time, did some research dating back to 2002, on how to reel in more female gamers to the scene.
When women were asked why they shied away from gaming, they said they needed to find a good excuse to break away from their daily routines just to play, and preferred the game to have some kind of social context as well. Facebook games cater to both – you get to play in bits and pieces, so it isn’t all that difficult to try and take time out just for gaming, and the social aspect ties in nicely to make it easier to do that.
Let us know your thoughts on Facebook gaming today. You can also talk to our game dev team to discuss how the Facebook gaming experience can be improved.